Choosing the best firewood to burn can be confusing and frustrating. 

Not all firewood is created equal! Some types of wood will burn hotter and cleaner than others.

Today’s Cottage Living is here to help make choosing the best firewood easy.

Is Hemlock Good Firewood?
Hemlock Branches

In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of using hemlock wood as firewood, as well as some other characteristics of this type of softwood.

In addition to focusing on the pros and cons of hemlock firewood, we discuss a variety of different types of wood, including hardwoods and softwoods, so you can find the perfect fit for your next fire.

Is Hemlock Good Firewood for heat output?

Because hemlock is a softwood, it is not the best wood for burning. It has a lower heat output than hardwoods. However, this doesn’t mean that hemlock wood is bad for burning. Hemlock can still make a good fire if the moisture content is low and it’s properly seasoned.

Is Hemlock Good Firewood for Burning?: The Pros and Cons

Hemlock is an evergreen conifer softwood from the pine family. Like most softwoods, hemlock firewood is easier to ignite than hardwoods, making hemlock ideal for kindling and starter logs.

Hemlock firewood burns quicker than hardwoods and does not produce fire-sustaining coals needed for long burn times in your wood stove or fireplace.

As such, it is a good firewood source when hemlock firewood is burnt with other hardwoods for maximum heat output and overnight fires.

Pros

  • Easy to ignite
  • Great for kindling wood
  • Provides lots of hot flames
  • Smells great!

Cons

  • Burns quickly
  • Does not produce fire sustaining coals for long burns
  • Generates lots of sparks and crackles
  • Difficult to split due after it’s dry

Let’s get into it!

Hemlock Firewood as a Heat Source

1 Cord of Hemlock Firewood Equals:

Natural Gas
(Cubic Feet)
Propane
(Gallons)
Heating Oil
(Gallons)
Kilowatt
(Hours)
16,3001851204,900

Note: The volume of a cord of wood is 128 cubic feet. Firewood is generally cut into 16-inch lengths and stacked in three rows, with a height of 4 feet and a length of 8 feet, for a total volume of 128 cubic feet.

HEMLOCK Firewood Characteristics

Weight
(lbs./cord) Dry
Ease of
Splitting
SparksFragrance
2700MediumManyGood
Chart data supplied by Utah State University, Forestry Extension

Seasoning Time: 12 -months (6 to 8 months in a warm, dry climate)

How to season hemlock quickly

Follow these easy suggestions to speed up the seasoning of green hemlock firewood.

  • Make room between rows by stacking them. By creating a sequence of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one, you can promote airflow.
  • Protect the stacks from the elements while yet allowing one side to be exposed to the wind by covering them with a waterproof cover like a tarp.
  • Make sure the stacks are evenly stacked and in the proper location. Avoid shaded regions, but make sure the stack is visible to wind flow.
  • Split the firewood into manageable pieces: before drying, chop the logs to increase their exposure to light and wind.
  • Stack the wood on an elevated platform to increase air circulation beneath it.

About Hemlock Trees

The name hemlock comes from the ancient Greek word “haimalos,” which meant “shaft.” Hemlock trees are medium to large evergreen trees that range in height from 10 to 60 meters (33 to 197 feet). The bark is scaly and frequently deeply furrowed, with hues of brown, gray, and black.

Hemlock trees are found throughout North America, from Alaska to Newfoundland in the north, and as far south as northern California and the Great Lakes region. In Canada, hemlocks make up about 10 percent of all commercial softwood forests.

The branches branch off horizontally from the tree and are generally set in flattened sprays that droop toward their tips.

Hemlocks grow best in moist, cool temperate regions with a lot of rainfall, cool summers, and little or no water stress; they are also adapted to endure severe winter snowfall and ice storms. Hemlock trees are more resistant to extreme shade than other conifers; nevertheless, they are more vulnerable to drought and grow best in acidic soil.

Varieties of Hemlock found in North America

  • Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) – Eastern Canada, Eastern United States
  • Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) – Western Canada, Northwestern United States
  • Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana) – Southern Appalachians

Common Hemlock Uses

Besides its popularity with firewood users, hemlocks are important in the timber industry, especially for use as wood pulp, and their wood is used to make a variety of products as well as being a popular choice for landscaping due to hemlock’s decay resistance.

In the United States, it is known as a common choice for light framing, cribbing and construction applications requiring super-strong wood. It’s one of the strongest pines you can get your hands on.

The bark of the hemlock is often used to tan leather. A non-toxic soothing tea can also be made from the needles of a hemlock tree, as well as perfume.

The eastern hemlock’s bark is believed to have been used by Native American tribes in the Northeast as a poultice for wounds, thanks to its astringent qualities.

The twigs and needles are high in vitamin C and are said to aid with kidney diseases.

The eastern hemlock’s bark is believed to have been used by Native American tribes in the Northeast as a poultice for wounds, thanks to its astringent qualities. The twigs and needles are high in vitamin C and are said to aid with kidney diseases.

The bark contains a lot of vitamin C, which has been used to cure scurvy on rare occasions. The tree’s cambium was formerly utilized in loaves of bread and soups since it was a source of food high in nutrition. It was also combined with animal fat and dried fruits to create high-nutrition meals.

Western hemlock is a popular material for building houses, decks, plywood, laminating stock, and solid beams. Its strength and hardness make it an excellent choice for horizontal components and spans greater than three meters.

Hemlock is recognized as a great option in the lumber industry for use in:

  • Boards
  • Coarse lumber,
  • Rough dimension stock
  • Square timber, beams
  • Construction posts
  • Sub-floors
  • Boxes, crates
  • General construction
  • Railway ties

Hemlock Log Homes

Square cut hemlock logs have begun to gain in popularity for use in log homes. In my cottage region, there is a local mill that provides contractors with complete log home packages, at more affordable prices than conventional pine or cedar log homes.

Hemlock square timber log homes are a popular choice for home owners and cottagers

How To Select The Best Trees For Firewood

To help you select firewood for heating, you can categorize firewood into the following three groups.

Poor

  • Pine
  • Soft Maple
  • Birch
  • Elm
  • Sycamore

Good

  • Hard Maple
  • Black Walnut
  • Black Cherry

Excellent

  • Hickory
  • Mulberry
  • Ash
  • Oak

FAQs

Does hemlock have a lot of sap?

Hemlock is a fir tree, and like most fir trees, it does have sap. However, this sap can actually help to make hemlock ideal for kindling as well as starter firewood. The sap helps to make the wood burn hotter and it also has a pleasant smell when burned.

Overall, hemlock is a great choice within a mix of hardwoods and softwoods.

Is hemlock easy to split?

Unlike white pine, seasoned hemlock becomes very hard when it’s dry – particularly mountain hemlock. It is much easier to split while it is still green. However, if you’re using a hydraulic splitter, seasoned hemlock will split with ease.

Either way you cut it, as far as softwoods go, hemlock is not one of the best burning woods, but it is still well worth burning.

Related Post:

How to cut firewood like a pro: best tools and tips

What is the best way to store hemlock firewood?

Place split firewood in a covered woodshed or storage area outside of your house. The bark side of the log should be on top and stored with the bark facing out. The bark is a natural barrier that prevents water from seeping into your wood, but using a big tarp is suggested because it keeps the rain off over the winter.

What does hemlock smell like?

The smell of Hemlock wood is recognized for having a distinctive wood odor with a nice character. As such, it can be found in traditional wood-saunas as an alternative to more expensive cedar.

Should seasoned wood make a hissing sound?

If you burn green wood (unseasoned wood) it is common to hear a sizzle from the wood. This is steam emanating from the wood due to high levels of moisture.

Always try to burn dry, seasoned wood as it will ignite and burn much easier and cause fewer problems with condensation and creosote.

How to know if firewood is dry enough to burn?

Check the logs’ ends to determine whether they’re well seasoned. They are dry if they’re black and cracked at the end. Dry seasoned wood is lighter in weight than wet wood, and when struck together, it makes a hollow sound. If there’s any green color visible or the bark is difficult to peel off, the log hasn’t yet been

How long will hemlock last?

Hemlock is a popular wood for raised garden beds, fencing, and barn construction and repair in the Northeast. There is no way to know how long the wood will last in the ground, but according to some people, it can endure 5 to 7 years if properly maintained.

Is it easier to split wet or dry wood?

Dry wood is generally easier to split, although this varies. Normally, dry, seasoned wood is simpler to split than wet wood. Dry wood contains less moisture, therefore it tends to split apart easier. However, dry (seasoned) hemlock becomes very hard so it’s recommended to cut it before it is fully seasoned.

Should logs be split before seasoning?

Seasoning wood does not necessitate that it be split; however, green wood should be split to aid in the drying out process. If you want to season your wood as quickly as possible, make sure you cut the logs to length and split them before stacking.

Do termites like firewood?

Firewood should be kept outside to avoid bringing in termites. The drawback is that firewood stored outside may attract moisture from the weather, and termites are skilled at locating wet wood. Keeping the wood dry not only prevents termites but also makes it burn better, allowing you to keep your house warm.

Which firewood produces the least amount of smoke?

Hardwoods such as ash, oak, hickory, and maple are examples of low-smoke hardwoods. Eucalyptus, poplar, and elm are some of the most smoking hardwoods.

What is the best firewood for burning overnight?

Hickory Is the longest-burning wood in terms of burn duration. Hardwood, which is defined as dense wood, will burn longer than softwood (low-density wood).

It’s really simple: hardwood requires more time to burn since there is more fuel “packed” into each log.

What kind of wood should not be used for firewood?

Wood from a building project or wood with paint on it should not be burned as firewood. These woods are coated in chemicals that become airborne when the wood is burned and can be harmful if ingested.

How to identify a hemlock tree?

Look for pine needles that are spaced along the stem on their own rather than in clusters to identify a hemlock tree. The needles have two white stripes on their undersides and are also flat, making them less likely to roll in your fingers.

A hemlock’s bark is gray or cinnamon-red, and it has narrow, rounded ridges. Thick scales cover the irregular ridges of this tree.

What is creosote?

Creosote is a black or brown liquid that is produced when wood burns. This can create creosote buildup on the inside of your chimney and cause a fire. Like any type of wood being used as indoor firewood, you want to avoid burning green pine. An inexpensive moisture meter is a good investment to quickly check how seasoned your firewood is.

Creosote is produced from burning firewood

Creosote is a by-product of burning wood and is created when unburned particles in the smoke condense and coat the inside of your chimney. These chemicals can be corrosive and can cause damage to your chimney.

Creosote is also flammable, so it is important to remove it from your chimney to prevent a chimney fire.

Cleaning your chimney once a year is a good idea if you burn a lot of pine or green (unseasoned) firewood.

Is creosote hazardous to health?

Creosote is a naturally-occurring substance found in coal tar. It has been used for centuries as a wood preservative and is still commonly used today. While creosote is not considered to be hazardous to health, there have been some reports of adverse effects associated with exposure to high levels of creosote fumes.

These effects include irritation of the respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. In rare cases, exposure to high levels of creosote fumes has been linked to cancer. If you are concerned about your health, it is best to avoid exposure to creosote fumes.

If you must work with or around products containing creosote, be sure to use proper ventilation and protective equipment.

What is firewood coaling?

Coaling refers to the amount of coals generated by firewood.

All firewood yields coal after a burn, but some types of wood yield more than others. The coal produced through the process has an impact on the fire’s longevity. Firewood that yields more coal will help the fire to last longer, which is especially nice in the winter months.

The wood with the highest capacity to generate coals is Oak, while Pine has one of the lowest coal-generating abilities.

Another advantage of big coal production is that it will be considerably easier to relight the fire in the morning since the embers will still be burning and all it takes is a little more dry wood over time to reignite a roaring blaze.

Summary

To summarize the original question; Is Hemlock Good Firewood? Yes, Hemlock can be part of an overall mix for your firewood needs, but Hemlock firewood is best suited for kindling and starter logs because it ignites easily. It also burns well in the spring and fall when you don’t need as much heat from your fireplace.

Just be sure to split the logs before they get too dry, and enjoy the nice aroma and flames of hemlock wood burning in your fireplace!



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Greg Jones

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